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Local Head Start programs run on savings due to shutdown

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Updated: 10/04/2013 9:34 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Local Head Start programs are hoping the government shutdown doesn't cause them to completely close their doors.

Parents told Action News if the centers close down they don't know what to do.

As of Oct. 1, early and regular Head Start centers like Belmont in Clay County began to run on their reserves and now they fear children won't be served because of the government shutdown.

It's a typical day for students in the classroom as they listen to a book or sing a song with their teachers at Belmont. The routine the kids are used to could all come to an end soon at this location and at least five other local counties pending a deal from lawmakers in Washington.
 
"When you come to these places, these schools, these are the kids that don't have anywhere else to go," said Amy Owen,  a mother of four children who depends on the Head Start program.

Owen is a part of the more than 500 families served by Episcopal Children's Services. Those families receive these services because they are living below poverty level. Owen said that's why funding is so important to her and her daughter.
"When she gets up in the morning, the first thing she asks me is "Do we have school today, mom?' You know it's going to be hard as a parent saying, 'Oh no, I'm sorry. Your school's closed today.' That's going to upset her," said Owen.

Painful is how Connie Stophel, EO and director of the programs, describes the thought of closing down.

"We know we're making a difference, so this is painful for us, painful for our parents, and our staff to have to say, 'I'm sorry, we can't take your children,'" said Stophel.

But Stophel know they can't afford the thousand of dollars in costs they're racking up from week to week. She said if Congress doesn't have a solution, the only option is to close.

"We can only do so much," said Stophel.

For parents like Owen, she's hoping Congress can do a whole lot more to keep her children and other kids in the classroom.

"The thoughts are, all of the children are going to get left behind," said Owen. Stophel said if the funding is not restored by Oct. 11, they will begin furloughs.
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